NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Chicagoland in last three years

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The Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBSCN) begins a fresh 10-race segment of the NASCAR America Fantasy Live game and anyone who was slow to jump on the Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch bandwagon during the last go-around have a new opportunity to ride those ponies until they go lame.

Simple, right?

Not so fast. Harvick was one of the top-five points earners only six times in the last 10 races. Busch was among the five best on seven occasions, and knowing when to leave them in the garage was critical because it allowed players to take a dark horse that might have been overlooked.

This week, Busch has only the ninth-best three-year average. Harvick is 17th on the chart – because of an accident in 2015 and an uncharacteristic 20th in 2016. Of course, that doesn’t mean much when they enter this weekend with as much momentum as they have shown.

Success predicts success in a NASCAR race and the top five this week should all be considered as fillers alongside Harvick and Busch in the NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster.

1. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 2.50 in two starts)
This is not the first time this season that Elliott has come to a track with a perfect record. Most experts expect him to win sometime in 2018, but that is not going to happen until Chevrolet finds the magic formula in regard to their aero package.

2. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 3.67)
Hamlin’s top-10 streak actually extends to four seasons. He has not finished worse than sixth since 2014 and given that he is part of the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut that has dominated with his teammate Kyle Busch, he has a better opportunity to visit Victory Lane than any other winless driver.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 5.00)
Forget about Truex’s average finish of fifth in the last three years and concentrate on his back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017. He’s also won two of the last three races this season, which means he has more momentum than anyone else in the field.

3. Joey Logano (three-year average: 5.00)
Team Penske has been perfect in regard to top-10 finishes in the last four years. Logano has not yet won – and with Harvick and Busch in the field, he is not likely to on Sunday either – but his second-place finish in 2016 and a fourth in 2014 makes him a solid fantasy pick.

5. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 6.33)
In terms of predictability, it doesn’t get much better than Keselowski’s Chicagoland record of seven straight top 10s. Two of these were wins (2012 and 2014) and all of them were eighth or better. Keselowski is overdue for a win because he has not gone this far into the season without one since 2013.

6. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 7.50 in two starts)
When a driver debuts at a track with a top-five finish, it generally indicates that he will run well there for the rest of his career. Blaney slipped to 11th last year after finishing fourth in his rookie run in 2016, but he’s in even better equipment this year and should easily land in the single digits again.

7. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 10.00)
By now, the reader has noticed a trend. There aren’t very many true dark horses to be had on 1.5-mile tracks in general and Chicagoland in particular. That works out just fine considering that most of the top-named drivers other than Harvick and Busch have virtually equal odds of winning.

8. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 10.33)
Once the king of the 1.5-mile tracks, Johnson’s fall from grace has been difficult for his fans. It also plays havoc with traditional methods of handicapping races. For now, keep ignoring him from a fantasy NASCAR perspective and use him only if Chevrolet turns their season around in the next 10 races.

9. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 10.67)
Busch’s three-year average is skewed by an uncharacteristic 15th-place finish last year. But, even before then he had not scored a top five in three seasons. That doesn’t really matter this week, however, because he’s won two of the five races on this track type and is not going to slow down.

10. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 11.67)
Busch has only one top-10 finish in the last three years, but a third in 2015 was good enough to offset his 13th in 2016 and a 19th last year. The tiebreaker goes to this season’s record, and with four results of seventh or eighth in five races on 1.5-mile tracks, he demands close attention in practice and qualification.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Three of the last four Chicagoland races have had qualification canceled because of weather, which doesn’t give players much data to consider. Kyle Busch won last year’s pole, however, and took the top spot at Charlotte and Atlanta earlier this season, so he is the driver mostly like to be fastest in time trials this week.

Segment Winners: Does one really have to ask who the most likely segment winners will be? Flip a coin between Harvick and Busch and hope that Fate is smiling.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.